Data Cities, planning frameworks for the future. Photogrammetry: Marcus White, Industry-embedded PhD candidate with MGS Architects and Professor Mark Burry at RMIT Spatial Information Architecture Lab

– 9 August – On 17 August about 100 people have been invited to the Sydney offices of PricewaterhouseCoopers  to decide the future of the world. Or at least how we build it. The occasion will be the preliminary meeting to establish a Data Cities Society.

A proposed working party is expected to include members of the National Association of Women in Construction, the Lighting Council, Australian Institute of Architects, Planning Institute of Australia and Engineers Australia.

But what exactly are Data Cities?

Data Cities is one name for a revolution under way that will develop and apply 3D digital technologies from aerospace to the challenges of organising cities. Instead of lines on paper or a screen, the new “Sim City-Star Trek-Google” technologies will enable “the biggest revolution in urban development since the Pyramids”.

At least that’s how Davina Jackson puts it. Jackson is “catalyst” for a proposed global public-private partnership to accelerate research, development and applications of these new too. The emerging technologies will allow “unprecedented accuracy” in accurately “tracking and managing the behaviours of everything from people to traffic, water, sunlight, energy consumption and so on,” she says.

Not so good for personal privacy, but a breakthrough for how we plan cities – and every other aspect of the built environment.

For community groups, it will for the first time allow them to see precisely what a particular development scenario would look, and compare it to other possibilities.
“This will add a lot of value to community consultation meetings about the impacts of proposed property developments.” Jackson says.

But before this can happen, an enormous amount of research, funding and support will be required. Jackson says much of the ground work has already consolidated this.

The Data Cities Society, which will start with a Sydney branch first and then spread to other parts of Australia, will be an important step in the process, a “21st century global club for multi-disciplinary urban professionals to team together to use the 3D spatial data methods and tools on major urban development projects,” as Jackson puts it.

The array of existing and prospective support forms an impressive list.

According to Jackson Commonwealth Government has identified Data Cities as a “future industry” and has committed $20 million for new research, and appointed a joint working party from the digital and built environment sectors to advise on ways to develop the new industry.

A new Eco Cities Research Agency and a Data Cities Research Alliance have been proposed to the Minister of Industry, Innovation, Science and Research, Kim Carr, and to Universities Australia and major research organisations.
And a new global “limited profit” corporation to commercialise Data Cities research will seek funding from the new Commonwealth Commercialisation Institute.

Also in the mix investigating the potential are digital technology companies and an alliance of major media companies, which would organise online communications for academic, government and commercial participants in a public private partnership.
Jackson says the PPP, known as d_city and launched in October last year, has been supported by the NSW Government and the NICTA research organisation.

Australia’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Centre of Excellence]. Also underway – chaired by the chief executive officer of the Victorian Growth Areas Authority, Peter Seamer – is a national reference panel to support the Data Cities Research Scheme for Australia and develop state government case studies to advance online planning of new growth centres.

In South Australia, premier Mike Rann [profiled in The Fifth Estate] said his state would also like to get involved.

Internationally, alliances are being formed with the Metropolis organisation, which includes more than 80 major city governments and other governments, the UN-Habitat program and the Al Gore-supported International Society for Digital Earth based at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

But it doesn’t stop there. Jackson says lobbying is underway to ensure support for a PPP concept for Data Cities will be included in the Copenhagen Agreement.

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